Bolivia suing Chile at The Hague over water dispute


Bolivian President Evo Morales announced Saturday that a new lawsuit against Chile will be presented before the International Court of Justice, or ICJ, at The Hague, this time for using water from the Silala stream along their mutual border.

"Now that Chile seeks to confuse the issue, with all the more reason, with all the more force and documentation will we present our case at The Hague to establish our sovereignty over the waters of Silala," Morales said during a speech at the central Bolivian municipality of Tacachi.

The controversy over Silala has been back in the spotlight since Morales announced last Wednesday, Bolivia's Day of the Sea commemorating the 137 years since the loss of its Pacific coast to Chile, that he would sue his country's southern neighbor because, he said, it is making "illegal" and "abusive" use of Silala waters without paying a penny for it.

Bolivia argues that Silala is a stream between cliffs whose waters were channeled to the north of Chile for use by the Antofagasta & Bolivia Railway Company, a Chilean firm.

Chile maintains that Silala is an international river and its Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz displays a map that accompanied the bilateral treaty of 1904 to back his country's claim.

The Bolivian president said Saturday that Muñoz just made "one more mistake" and considered his statement about Silala to be "false."

He said that in 1908, four years after the treaty was signed, Chile asked the regional government of Potosi, in whose jurisdiction Silala lies, for a concession to use those waters for the Chilean railroad of the area.

The president invited his Chilean colleague, Michelle Bachelet, and other Santiago authorities to visit Silala next week to show that "this is not an international river but waters that flow from wetlands."

According to the Bolivian government, Chile must admit "it is stealing water from Potosi province."

The dispute over Silala waters had remained in the background up to now compared with Bolivia's historic demand that Chile restore it access to the Pacific Ocean, which has been on trial at The Hague since 2013.

Bolivia lost its access to the sea in 1878 after the occupation of its coast by Chilean troops.